TVNZ to apologise to Craig after Seven Sharp fairness breach

TVNZ will air an apology to Colin Craig on Seven Sharp tomorrow night after an item about Conservative Party leader Colin Craig was judged to have breached the fairness standard.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority says it received a range of complaints about the broadcast on 24 April, as well as an earlier item on 17 April which related to Craig’s opposition to the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.

The 24 April broadcast was introduced with: “Conservative leader Colin Craig’s decided not to take defamation action against a satirical website which printed a false quote from him last week. The legal action was problematic, of course, because most of us would like to have a go at Colin Craig, wouldn’t we? So Jesse’s kindly put together some tips to help us out.”

Presenter Jesse Mulligan then offered tips on defense against defamation as part of “Jesse’s Guide to Making Fun of Colin Craig”.

The authority said in its decision it accepted some of the comments in the broadcast related indirectly to Craig’s standpoint on gay marriage and his defamation proceedings threat, and amounted to legitimate satire. But it said Mulligan’s remarks that he thought Craig was a nutcase, felt he was a “doofus” and believed he was a “smarmy rich prick” had no bearing on Craig’s political views.

“These comments offered no constructive comment on the underlying issues, but were simply personal abuse masquerading as satire,” the authority said. “In deciding whether to uphold the complaint, we must consider the right to freedom of expression, and balance this against the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast.

“In our view, upholding the complaint that Colin Craig was treated unfairly in this item would be a reasonable and proportionate limit on the right to freedom of expression.”

TVNZ spokesperson Georgie Hills says, “a statement will appear on screen and it will be voiced over by one of our Seven Sharp team (not a presenter – in line with the BSA’s order).

TVNZ was also ordered to pay $1500 to the crown. The item is no longer on its website.

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